Why Quality Peer Support Is Crucial For New Mums With PND
Perhaps one of the crueller aspects of postnatal depression is the fact that so many mums and dads going through it feel entirely alone in their struggle. This, despite the fact that almost 2000 babies are born every day in the UK, and statistically 20 per cent of new mums will experience some level of perinatal depression or an associated anxiety during the first postnatal year.
As a new mum in the throes of PND seven years ago, I was reluctant to share how awful I was feeling for a variety of reasons – everything from truly believing everyone else in my mother’s group had their sh*t together as a new parent; to worrying that if I did divulge the fact I wasn’t enjoying parenthood as much as I’d imagined I would, it would somehow be a black mark against my abilities or worth as a mum. Hands down the hardest thought I dealt with, though, was that my lack of happiness might somehow be interpreted as me not loving my son. It took me 11 months to realise I was probably suffering some depression and pluck up the courage to admit I needed support.
Others may decide not to share because it’s their first time as a parent, have nothing to compare their experience against, and believe the struggle they’re going through is all part and parcel of the new-parent experience. None of us are alone in our reluctance to share how we’re feeling – research shows that 70 per cent of women admit they hide or downplay symptoms of mental illness.
Though dreamy parent-and-child posts so often scattered across social media might have us believe otherwise, all families have good days and bad days. There are many others who are going through it too. The sooner we tell someone about how we’re feeling, the faster we can get help – and there is so much of it out there.
While numerous studies show that isolation is a potential factor for postnatal depression, there is also much research – and resources – proving how well peer-to-peer support works in successful recovery.
A pilot study published in The Journal of New Writing in Health and Social Care in July 2016, undertaken by the School of Nursing and Midwifery at Staffordshire University, found that peer support for mothers with postnatal depression may have a positive effect on the mental health of new mums, and improve the relationship they have with their baby.
In the trial, mums suffering from postnatal depression according to the Edinburgh Postnatal Depression Scale (EPDS) six weeks after giving birth were visited for an hour a week, for six weeks, by trained peer support workers who had themselves suffered low to moderate PND in the past.
At the end of the six-week period, participants showed an improved score according to the EPDS, and positive remarks from some of the participants included the fact that they felt they could be their true self and at ease in the company of their peer support worker.
There’s no denying that professional intervention is absolutely key to successful recovery from PND, but peer support can be an excellent tool for recovery alongside any clinical therapies that might be prescribed in any individual case.
Here are some fantastic ways to gain peer support from other parents who’ve had PND too, who understand what you’re going through and who want to help.
Humans are hard-wired to connect with each other, and we generally thrive when we communicate with others and get a sense of mutual understanding from it. It’s no wonder there are countless articles popping up in recent years around the idea of ‘finding your tribe’. When you become a parent, connecting with other mums and dads comes with a range of benefits, not least that a lack of social interaction is identified as a risk factor for PND.
Your GP or health visitor may know of groups to recommend to you in your area, or look for notices at libraries, cafes, supermarkets or play centres in your locale. If you’re looking to connect for peer support when it comes to PND, always check to see that a group is run by well-trained staff or volunteers. The NCT’s Early Days courses or their Bumps & Babies groups are a good place to start. Visit nct.org.uk and type in your postcode to see what’s available in your area.
It’s not always easy to get out and about when you have a young baby at home, and online groups are another great way to seek peer support that’s readily accessible from your phone, tablet or computer.
Mother of three Rosey Adams has suffered antenatal and postnatal depression with each of her children and started blogging about her experience in 2014 at www.pndandme.co.uk. She runs a weekly online peer support group on Twitter every Wednesday from 8-9pm, and anyone can join in the conversation using #PNDHour. As Rosey writes on her blog, “I hope as we continue to connect and discuss perinatal mental illness openly, honestly and without judgement, we can help break down the stigma attached to this illness and bring together charities, groups, professionals, families and importantly the mothers affected by perinatal mental illness for peer support.”
There’s also the Moment Community, of course, which is available through your Moment Health app and on Facebook. Set up in mid-2017, it’s the perfect companion tool to your app and a safe place to join a community of like-minded parents who share stories and experiences in a non-judgemental environment.
"The Moment Community was set up as a way for mums to share their stories of pregnancy and motherhood and feel supported by others who have been through similar experiences,” says Moment Health’s Community Lead, Anne-Claire Wall. “The group also likes to keep things light-hearted from time to time, and often a simple quote or story can start a flow of funny conversations which help to remind us it’s important to find opportunities to laugh as well as cry when things get tough.”
Part of the group’s mission is to connect mums and new parents. “The isolation that tends to develop with becoming a mum can be difficult to surmount when every spare minute is taken up by a newborn,” says Anne-Claire. “Our Moment Community is an easily-accessible outlet for new mums to realise that they’re not alone and to give them the opportunity to connect with a group of peers who have been through what they are going through.”
A study published in the BMJ in 2009 found that telephone peer to peer support had the potential to play a role in the prevention of postnatal depression. For the study, women who had recovered from PND in the past were recruited and given four hours training so they could offer telephone support to the 701 study participants who had identified as being high risk for PND in the first two weeks postpartum. More than 80 per cent of the new mums who participated said they were happy with the service and would recommend it to a friend.
The PANDAS Foundation UK has a range of helpful support services, including their Helpline (0843 28 98 401), which is run 9am-8pm daily by trained volunteers. Similarly, the Association for Post Natal Illness (APNI) runs a helpline (0207 386 0868) from 10am-2pm every day.
Moment Health is very excited to be partnering with PNDHour on this very topic from 8pm-9pm this evening (15th November). We hope that our Moment Health app and community will help mothers and their nearest and dearest to feel supported #Makeitmainstream
A bit about Moment Health…
Moment Health is a technology company that aims to prioritise Maternal Mental Health and provide new parents with the tools and knowledge they need to sustain good mental wellbeing – from pregnancy through to parenthood.
The Moment Health app has been developed with clinicians and healthcare professionals. It will screen for perinatal, postnatal and associated anxieties, and include additional features such as a helpful guide to practical and accessible coping strategies.
At Moment Health, our mission is to make maternal mental health mainstream #MakeItMainstream.
Download our App today